There is a consistent increase in the number of home based workers who choose either to telecommute several days a week, or have opted to accept jobs where they can work remotely. In addition, there is a strong growth in home based businesses resulting from either corporate down-sizing or workers wanting a balance between their professional and personal life. Whatever the reason or motivation, leaving behind the corporate setting, complete with visibility and politics, requires and adjustment.
There are many surveys that identify both the benefits and liabilities from working from a remote office. However, these surveys may or may not apply to your specific situation. For most of my career I held positions working on-site for several large multi-national companies. When the opportunity arose for me to work remotely, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try something different. I soon realized that working from home requires mental fortitude, determination and flexibility. When working in an office setting, there are many opportunities to bond with colleagues at extended business lunches, conduct hallway conversations and maintain a connection to all the “office news”. This will not be the reality of the home based workers, but there are other opportunities to embrace.
Based on my experience there are several key points that should be considered before you take the leap to work from home.
Making the Mental Adjustment is Primary
It needs to be stated; although some may think it is obvious, working from home requires a mind makeover. It is important to realize that you are now working remotely. Your workspace has become the kitchen table or the spare bedroom. But being prepared mentally includes working to make your new workspace a success. The old way of doing things and conducting business is dead. Making the adjustment to handling your business and affairs in a different now takes priority. Being willing to make the adjustments and key your eyes focused on the reason for the change is essential.
Where is the Location of Your Workspace?
Working on the coffee table in front of the television or in the hallway may not be the ideal workspace, if other more suitable areas exist. For example, I recommend a dedicated space to define your work. To work from home has its boundaries. Some of the obstacles others faces are that the boundaries are not clearly defined. So the work becomes home and seeds of stress and anxiety start to grow. Soon your home becomes work and no longer represents security and happiness. This can be avoided if the workspace has a boundary.
Take Frequent Breaks
I struggle with taking breaks. Taking frequent breaks does not mean getting away from the desk every 10 or 15 minutes. At times I can work on a project for hours and then realize I did not get up out of my office chair. I suggest handling work by individual projects. Taking breaks before starting a new project or phase of the project works for me. Others can set a clock or meeting invite on their digital calendars. Finding out what works best is an individual decision. A word of caution is that failing to take breaks can result in both a lack of productivity and increased stress. In a recent conversation with a former colleague who is a telecommuter on the subject of working from home, she mentioned that staying active is her biggest challenging. Getting up and moving around is important since there are limited distractions and it is easy to become engrossed in projects without taking a break.
Take Advantage of Technology
One of the challenges of working remotely is to keep track of both your time and projects. In most cases there is no one looking over your shoulder asking for the project status or deliverable. I recommend keeping a “To List”. Maintaining a “To List” and focusing on all your tasks can prove effective. I know some keep all their digital gadgets to do this. I prefer a sheet of paper, a pen and a highlighter. I write all my tasks down each day and once they are accomplished I cross them off with my favorite color highlighter. This works for me. However, whatever you prefer, using something to remove deliverable shows signs of progress. I also report on all my deliverables each day. Some things fall between the cracks, but here is an area to keep making improvements. Find out what works best then stick with it. In addition, there are software packages that can accomplish this as well. Choose what works for you.
Schedule Meetings Out of the House
At times, leaving the house for meetings can provide a break in your day. I schedule meetings with clients several times a month which creates a good balance between work and home. However, when speaking to some remote workers, they schedule time out of the house to work at the local Starbucks, meet friends for lunch, run an errand or find something else to do. Schedule time to be out of your work/home as this will create a balance environment. When the workload becomes intense, do not neglect this.
Network with Fellow Remote Workers
This could be a challenge, however, at times only someone who is a remote worker could understand this. I connect with several people who work at home. We find time to vent about the joys and struggles, but also find practical solutions to resolve issues. Someone who has not worked at home may not fully understand the plight of the remote worker.
You can make it a success as a remote worker. It takes planning, focus and dedication, but can provide flexibility in your life that cannot be accomplished otherwise.